Artivism: Intro to Artivism

Jan 02, 2017 by Bethel Swift, in Artivism
The year 2016 exposed overwhelming evidence that the U.S. still has far to go in terms of becoming a nation that can truly claim to be the "land of the free” and a safe haven for people of all races, religions, political leanings, sexual orientations, etc. to enjoy basic human “unalienable rights” of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

I am proud of the activism work that I took part in last year: politics, protests, placing phone calls, sending emails, signing petitions, and sharing in social media campaigns, but one of the most effective steps I took was actually taking a step back from my social media activity to find focus for future posts/shares.

News of injustice, oppression, and suffering (be it delivered in person or via independent, amateur, or mass media) elicits an emotional response from all of us, and often, it feels like that is all that can be induced. Last year, so many of my peers blogged or posted social media statuses about how helpless and pointless it feels to share a video and just wait for the “likes” or sad faced emojies to roll in.

Reading these comments caused me to reconsider how I share information to make sure that my message was not coming across as a blank emotional check for people to just “Get angry!” or “Get sad!” but actually empowering them to DO something about the issue or problem. Toward the end of last year, I begin taking a little extra time to research so that I could include both a call to action and the information (phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) needed to empower readers/viewers who were interested in following up.

From these action-based social media awareness posts was born the concept of monthly artivism posts for this blog. Just opening one's eyes to bear witness to the “ugly” aspects of society can get exhausting and - it goes without saying that - actually experiencing racism, religious persecution, sexism, or any injustice firsthand is far worse.

So often we feel compelled to project a fake perennial interview attitude of, “I have no problems and I can solve your problems.” Last year, particularly with my social media outlets,  I felt like I was vacillating between an attempt at the former and its polar opposite (with a twist), so something along the lines of: “The world has all the problems and I don't think we can solve them!”

Activists and, I think, especially artists, can easily fall into negative spiral thought patterns and begin believing that what we do doesn’t really matter or make a difference. In my experience, however, when I am expressing gratitude for the good in life, practicing self-care (which for me includes plenty of sleep, daily yoga, nutritional food choices, and a fair bit of coloring as well as making time for my art and creative work; it is much easier to stay aware and involved without buying into negative core beliefs. That is why I chose a triad focus (of artivism, gratitude, and self-care) for my blog’s theme in 2017.

This year, I encourage you to join me in vigorously advocating for the rights of others while also caring for our own emotional, mental, and physical well-being because, as Eleanor Brownn put it, “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” My hope for this blog is to create an uplifting space for artist activists to practice daily gratitude, take good care of themselves, and also take action to bring attention and healing to our country’s open wounds.